Connect with us

Technology

Google Nest Hub (2nd gen) review: wearable-free sleep tracking smart display | Google

Published

on

Google’s second-generation Nest Hub smart display now comes with radar-based sleep tracking as it attempts to keep Amazon’s Alexa at bay.

The new Nest Hub costs £89.99 on launch, which makes it cheaper than its predecessor and slightly undercuts competitors of a similar size.

The second-generation unit has the same design as the original but is ever-so-slightly taller. The 7in LCD screen looks great and is crisp enough for viewing at arm’s length or further, making it perfect for use as a digital photo frame. The body is now made of recycled plastic and the screen is covered in an edgeless glass, which makes it easier to wipe clean.

The display is mounted in a fabric foot that contains a louder speaker with 50% more bass than its predecessor. It sounds better than the Nest Mini, but not as powerful as the Nest Audio or similarly sized speakers.

Google Nest Hub
Tap the air in front of the display to pause the music or wave at an alarm to snooze it. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

New for the Nest Hub are the ultrasound and Google’s Soli miniature radar sensors, which enable advanced functions without the privacy implications of having a camera. Ultrasound is used to detect when people are near while increasing the size of text when you are further away.

Soli tracks movement for two features. The first is motion sense, which was first introduced on the company’s Pixel 4 phone in 2019 and tracks hand gestures to allow you to pause music, silence alarms and similar. The second is sleep tracking.

Sleep Sense

Google Nest Hub
The display can show a summary of your sleep after you wake or you can see it all in the Google Fit app on Android or iOS. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Nest Hub uses its radar to track the breathing patterns and sleep of the person lying beside it without the need for a wrist or headband. Put it on a bedside table about an arm’s length away and go to bed as normal.

The device records how long you sleep, restless periods and, optionally, how many times you cough or snore using the microphones. The data is processed locally on the Hub using built-in artificial intelligence, but then synced to Google’s long-standing health service, Fit, so you can see your data on your phone. You cannot opt out of syncing the data with Google Fit, but you can delete it or share it with other services.

The display can also show you a summary of how you slept last night or over the last week. The results were surprisingly good, recording similar length of time slept and disturbances to both wrist-based sleep tracking with a Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar and a Withings Sleep Analyzer mat underneath the mattress.

Google Nest Hub
Sleep sense only tracks the person immediately in front of the display, not a partner the other side of the bed, and it can’t differentiate between coughs and snores from more than one person. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

It does not record sleep cycles nor heart rate, which is a key health metric while sleeping, but for a non-contact sleep tracking system that requires no special gear to be worn I was impressed. It can give you tips for better sleep and help you keep a consistent bedtime, suggesting an optimised time after two weeks of tracking.

There is a potential catch, however. Sleep sensing is only in “free preview” until at least the end of the year. The firm says that it is “learning and innovating on this new technology, and also exploring how Sleep Sensing can become a part of the Fitbit and Fitbit Premium experiences” after Google’s recent purchase of the fitness tracker maker. That means Google could start to charge for some or all of the sleep-tracking feature, as it does for the advanced sleep-tracking analysis within its Fitbit Premium subscription.

Google Nest Hub
You can set ad hoc or repeating alarms, but be warned there’s no battery backup so if the power is out when the alarm should sound it won’t wake you up. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Nest Hub can do so-called sunrise alarms. Here the display gradually lights up through warm colours simulating a sunrise for a period immediately before an audible alarm to gently wake you up. It works well if you happen to sleep facing it in a dark room, but will struggle otherwise. The Nest Hub can light up third-party smart lights too for a greater effect.

Plus all the usual smart display features

Google Nest Hub
An ambient light sensor at the top adjusts the brightness and colour of the screen so that photos look true-to-life while a swipe-up quick settings panel can turn things on and off. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Nest Hub can do all of the usual smart assistant things too. It can show you recipes, searches, set timers and alarms, control a large variety of third-party smart home devices and even stream a live feed from compatible smart cameras such as Google’s Nest Hello doorbell.

It plays music and radio including BBC stations, Spotify and via Bluetooth, and can be grouped with other Google speakers for multiroom audio. You can cast video to the display like you would to a TV or Chromecast from most media apps, or play video from Netflix, Disney+ and YouTube directly. The 7in screen is only really big enough for short things or watching TV while doing something else, such as cooking.

It will also play the news, show the weather and personal information such as calendar events, your commute and other things synced with your Google account. Google Assistant can recognise an individual’s voice to give them personalised information such as their calendar or music from their Spotify. You can even do voice calls via Google Duo, but not video calls as it lacks a camera.

Google Nest Hub
There’s a physical mute switch for the three microphones on the back, plus volume buttons on the side. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Sustainability

The Nest Hub is generally repairable. The casing is made of 54% recycled post-consumer plastic, part of Google’s commitment to include recycled materials in all its products launching from 2022. The company publishes environmental impact reports for some of its products, but has yet to publish one for the updated Nest Hub. Google will recycle devices free of charge.

Observations

  • It has a Thread radio built in, which will be enabled at a later date for connecting to the next generation of new smart home devices that are in development by various manufacturers.

  • You can quickly delete your sleep data from the display for up to two hours after waking up and can pause sleep tracking with a quick-settings button.

  • The interface is generally fast enough, if not exactly snappy, but it can be a bit sluggish to respond when streaming video from a smart camera.

  • Initial setup of the Nest Hub is done through the Google Home app on Android or iPhone, and takes less than five minutes.

Price

The second-generation Google Nest Hub costs £89.99.

For comparison, the Google Nest Hub Max costs £189, the Lenovo Smart Clock costs £34.99, Amazon Echo Show 5 costs £79.99, the Echo Show 8 costs £99.99 and the Echo Show 10 costs £239.99.

Verdict

The second-generation Google Nest Hub offers quite a few features squeezed into a compact and easy-to-live-with device.

It is very similar to the first generation but the addition of radar for gestures and sleep tracking is useful. It might not record heart rate or your sleep cycle, but provides simple sleep tracking without the faff of having to wear or charge anything. Whether or not you want a Google sleep-tracking device in your bedroom is another matter.

The speaker is better, but not as good as larger smart speakers. Google Assistant is the smartest voice assistant of the bunch and the little 7in display is one of the best digital photo frames you can buy, but it can be a little sluggish here and there.

It is slightly cheaper than similar competitors, and will probably be discounted fairly soon. Meanwhile the first-generation Nest Hub is being flogged at £60 or less.

Pros: sleep tracking without bracelet or headband, good screen, decent speaker, Google Assistant, hand gestures, Cast support for video and music, BBC radio, recycled plastic, no camera for privacy concerns.

Cons: 7in screen a bit small for video, can be a bit slow at times, no camera for video chat.

Other reviews

Source link

Technology

Virtual contact worse than no contact for over-60s in lockdown, says study | Coronavirus

Published

on

Virtual contact during the pandemic made many over-60s feel lonelier and more depressed than no contact at all, new research has found.

Many older people stayed in touch with family and friends during lockdown using the phone, video calls, and other forms of virtual contact. Zoom choirs, online book clubs and virtual bedtime stories with grandchildren helped many stave off isolation.

But the study, among the first to comparatively assess social interactions across households and mental wellbeing during the pandemic, found many older people experienced a greater increase in loneliness and long-term mental health disorders as a result of the switch to online socialising than those who spent the pandemic on their own.

“We were surprised by the finding that an older person who had only virtual contact during lockdown experienced greater loneliness and negative mental health impacts than an older person who had no contact with other people at all,” said Dr Yang Hu of Lancaster University, who co-wrote the report, published on Monday in Frontiers in Sociology.

“We were expecting that a virtual contact was better than total isolation but that doesn’t seem to have been the case for older people,” he added.

The problem, said Hu, was that older people unfamiliar with technology found it stressful to learn how to use it. But even those who were familiar with technology often found the extensive use of the medium over lockdown so stressful that it was more damaging to their mental health than simply coping with isolation and loneliness.

“Extensive exposure to digital means of communication can also cause burnout. The results are very consistent,” said Hu, who collected data from 5,148 people aged 60 or over in the UK and 1,391 in the US – both before and during the pandemic.

“It’s not only loneliness that was made worse by virtual contact, but general mental health: these people were more depressed, more isolated and felt more unhappy as a direct result of their use of virtual contact,” he said.

The report, Covid-19, Inter-household Contact and Mental Wellbeing Among Older Adults in the US and the UK, analysed national data from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council-funded Understanding Society Covid-19 survey and the US Health and Retirement Study.

Hu said more emphasis needed to be placed on safe ways to have face-to-face contact in future emergencies. There must also, he added, be a drive to bolster the digital capacity of the older age groups.

“We need to have disaster preparedness,” he said. “We need to equip older people with the digital capacity to be able to use technology for the next time a disaster like this comes around.”

The findings outlined the limitations of a digital-only future and the promise of a digitally enhanced future in response to population ageing in the longer term, added Hu.

“Policymakers and practitioners need to take measures to pre-empt and mitigate the potential unintended implications of household-centred pandemic responses for mental wellbeing,” he said.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, welcomed the report. “We know the virtual environment can exacerbate those feelings of not actually being there with loved ones in person,” she said.

“It’s essential therefore that government makes preventing and tackling loneliness a top policy priority, backed up with adequate funding.

“It’s not over the top to point out that in the worst cases, loneliness can kill in the sense that it undermines resilience to health threats of many kinds, as well as leading to older people in the twilight of their lives losing all hope, so they lack a reason to carry on.”

Patrick Vernon, associate director at the Centre for Ageing Better, said he saw many examples of older people using technology to stay connected in “really positive ways”.

But he was also doubtful: “We know that even for those who are online, lack of skills and confidence can prevent people from using the internet in the ways that they’d like to.”

Previous research by the Centre for Ageing Better found that since the pandemic, there had been significant increases in the use of digital technology among those aged 50-70 years who were already online.

But there are still 3 million people across the UK who are offline, with a significant digital divide affecting low-income households. Twenty-seven per cent of people aged 50-70 with an annual household income under £25,000 were offline before the pandemic.

Vernon said: “Our research has found that some people who were offline found it difficult to connect with family, friends and neighbours during the pandemic – and even those who were online said technology didn’t compensate for missing out on physical social interactions.”

Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

For a true display of wealth, dab printer ink behind your ears instead of Chanel No. 5 • The Register

Published

on

Printer ink continues to rank as one of the most expensive liquids around with a litre of the home office essential costing the same as a very high-end bottle of bubbly or an oak-aged Cognac.

Consumer advocate Which? has found that ink bought from printer manufactures can be up to 286 per cent more expensive than third-party alternatives.

Dipping its nib in one inkwell before delicately wiping off the excess on some blotting paper, Which? found that a multipack of colour ink (cyan, magenta, yellow) for the WorkForce WF-7210DTW printer costs £75.49 from Epson.

“This works out at an astonishing £2,410 a litre – or £1,369 for a pint,” said Which?.

The consumer outfit also reported that since the Epson printer also requires a separate Epson black cartridge for £31.99, it takes the combined cost of replacement inks for the Workforce printer to a wallet-busting £107.98.

On the other hand, if people ditched the brand and opted for a full set of black and colour inks from a reputable third-party supplier, it would cost just £10.99 – less than a tenth of the price.

Printing has become essential for plenty of workers holed up at home during the pandemic. The survey by Which? of 10,000 consumers found 54 per cent use their printer at least once a week. Which? said it estimates an inkjet cartridge would need to be replaced three times a year.

The report discovered tactics used by the big vendors to promote the use of “approved”, “original”, and “guaranteed” ink supplies.

It found Epson devices, for example, flagging up a “non-genuine ink detected” message on its LCD screen when using a non-Epson cartridge, and HP printers are actively blocking customers from using non-HP supplies.

Adam French, a consumer rights champion at Which?, reckons this situation is simply unacceptable.

“Printer ink shouldn’t cost more than a bottle of high-end Champagne or Chanel No. 5,” said French. “We’ve found that there are lots of third-party products that are outperforming their branded counterparts at a fraction of the cost.”

In a rallying call to consumers he said that third-party ink should be a personal choice and not “dictated by the make of your printer.”

“Which? will continue to make consumers aware of the staggering cost differences between own-brand and third-party inks and give people the information they need to buy the best ink for their printer,” he said.

Which is exactly what the Consumers Association said almost 20 years ago when it reported that printer ink cost around £1,700 a litre. Then – as now – the Consumer Association advised consumers to steer clear of brand-name printer cartridges and pick cheaper alternatives instead.

The survey by Which? found that 16 third party brands beat the big brands in terms of ink prices.

Epson wasn’t the only printer biz to be singled out for sky-high ink prices. Canon, and HP were fingered too.

For its part, Epson said customers “should be offered choice… to meet their printing needs” and listed a number of options including its EcoTank systems and a monthly Ink Subscription service.

And in a nod to anyone looking to save money by using a third party, Epson said: “Finally, as non-genuine inks are not designed or tested by Epson we cannot guarantee that these inks will not damage the printer. Whilst Epson does not prevent the use of non-Epson inks, we believe that it is reasonable, indeed responsible, that a warning is displayed as any damage caused by the use of the inks may invalidate the warranty.”

As part of its investigation, Which? found that some HP printers use a system called “dynamic security” which recognises cartridges that use non-HP chips and stops them from working.

HP has tried to battle against third party ink makers trying to capture supplies sales by overhauling the model of its printer business: by shifting to ink tanks printers that come pre-loaded with supplies for an estimated timeframe; or by selling the printer hardware for more upfront and allowing biz customers or consumers to buy the supplies they want.

In response to Which?, HP said it “offers quality, sustainable and secure print supplies with a range of options for customers to choose from, including HP Instant Ink – a convenient printing subscription service with over 9 million users that can save UK customers up to 70 per cent on ink costs, with ink plans starting at £0.99 per month.”

Reg readers may remember the kerfuffle around HP’s Instant Ink. The free plan was reinstated, sort of. For existing customers.

Over at Canon, a spokesperson said third-party ink products can work with its printers, but the “technology inside is designed to function correctly with our genuine inks which are formulated specifically to work with Canon technology.”

“Customers are encouraged to use genuine inks to ensure the longevity of their printer, and also to ensure that their final prints are of a standard we deem Canon quality. In addition, the use of third party inks invalidates the warranty of the printer.”

With almost four in ten (39 per cent) people saying that they do not use third-party cartridges because of fears that they might not work with their printer, it might go some way to explain why more than half (56 per cent) of the consumers quizzed said they persist with using potentially pricey original-branded cartridges despite cheaper alternatives being available. ®

Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

Repligen to create 130 new jobs in Waterford site expansion

Published

on

The project adds to the 74 people already employed at the Artesyn Biosolutions facility acquired by Repligen in 2020.

Repligen Corporation is undertaking an expansion of its Waterford site which will see 130 new jobs created, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD, has announced.

The life sciences company is building a new 3,000 sq m facility which will be a centre of excellence for single-use consumable products used in bioprocessing applications. The site currently hosts a 1,000 sq m facility employing 74 people, which was established by Ireland’s Artesyn Biosolutions before that company was acquired by Repligen last November.

Repligen Corporation is a multinational that produces bioprocessing products for use in the pharmaceutical manufacturing process. Headquartered in Massachusetts, the company has sites across the United States and in Estonia, France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as here in Ireland.

According to the company, the new building will be certified silver on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system from the US Green Building Council. The consumable products manufactured there will be used in filtration and chromatography systems during the production of vaccines and other biopharmaceutical products.

Commenting on the announcement, Varadkar said: “This is excellent news from Repligen with the creation of 130 new jobs in Waterford. It comes on foot of a major jobs announcement by Bausch and Lomb. Waterford is on the move as a centre for jobs and investment.

“I wish the team the very best with their expansion plans.”

James Bylund, senior vice-president at Repligen, added: “We are thrilled to continue the collaboration with the Irish Government and the IDA that was initiated by the Artesyn team. This build-out is an important step in expanding our capacity and establishing dual manufacturing sites for key single-use consumable products used in manufacture of biological drugs.

“With its LEED Silver designation, the facility is closely aligned with our commitment to responsible growth and sustainability.”

Dr Jonathan Downey, managing director at the Waterford facility, said: “Having delivered beyond our commitment in 2019 to bring new jobs to the region through our development of high-end manufacturing capabilities, we are energised and excited about our integration with Repligen and this next phase of growth.

“In addition to our expansion of Artesyn products, and the transfer of manufacturing of certain of Repligen’s current products to our Irish operations, we expect to be utilising the Irish sites to advance additional research, development and innovation programs.”

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!